278 Words: A Reflection on Memorial Day

NOTE: This week three young soldiers from Fort Bliss have laid down their lives for our nation and for the freedom and the security of the Afghan people. We must remember their ultimate sacrifice and pray for their families and comrades in arms.

This past week summer officially began with the observance of Memorial Day. For many Americans this three-day weekend revolves around the Indy 500, cookouts, family gatherings, quick road trips, or eighteen holes chasing a little white ball.

 Sadly, even though the soldiers of our land currently stand in harm’s way on a foreign field, most Americans live as if we are not at war. However, for those of us blessed to be friends and neighbors of the soldiers of Fort Bliss we know all too well of the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces.

 Within days after the end of the bloody War Between the States, leaders in our land called on our nation to stop and remember our fallen heroes. General John Logan in May 1868 ordered that flowers be put on the graves in Arlington National Cemetery in loving memory of those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

 One of the most moving speeches in American history came from the lips of President Abraham Lincoln as he stood over the graves of a generation of fallen heroes in Gettysburg. In just “278” words, Lincoln captured the meaning and purpose of their deaths and called our nation to be accountable before God for their sacrifice.

 In Lincoln’s mind when these men gave their “last full measure of devotion” their actions opened the way for this nation to pursue a greater cause. War must always be the last resort. The high price of war must not be wasted.

 In his closing remarks, Lincoln boldly concluded:

 “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—“

 As a people we dare not squander the blood and sacrifice of so many through the decades—whether the deaths were on the beaches of Normandy or Okinawa, or in the jungles of Vietnam, the sands of Iraq, or the steep mountain sides of Afghanistan.

 These men and women fought and died for an ideal or an idea of freedom planted in the hearts of men and women by their Creator. As followers of the Peace of Peace, we know that the hope for our world rests in the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. His cross and sacrifice inspire us to live with abandonment for the sake of others.

 If we allow the light of the gospel to go dim on our watch we would have squandered the opportunity of a lifetime.

 Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.”

 We are surrounded by such men and women, and I pray as followers of Jesus that we will make the most of every opportunity we have to do good in word and deed by pointing people to the hope of the world—JESUS!

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